It’s a short-lived season, much like the elderflowers that grow at the bottom of the garden, but it’s one, rather like the flowering of the magnolia tree, that brings me great happiness. In the past, I have tended to use wild garlic only for a risotto. Failing that, I just lie face down among the leaves and breathe deeply, occasionally chomping on a flower like a demented Eeyore.
Summer is here more or less and the cupboards and fridge groans with colour and often fruit flies if I’m forgetful. It’s the season that makes cooking easy. When you’ve got such fresh and vibrant ingredients readily available, if not in your garden then on your greengrocers shelves and market stalls, meals can be put together in hardly any time and with the minimum of fuss.
This morning, I popped into my in-laws for a cup of coffee after taking the children to school and returned home with a bag full of snails, ladybirds, a bit of a slug and some other unidentified black dots with legs. Among the wildlife, I managed to fit in a few bunches of wild garlic leaves and the seed pods, I’ve missed the flowers this year.
After a good wash of both the leaves and me (I feel I still have an insect or two lurking somewhere about my person), I quickly pulsed them in the processor and set about this dish with the enthusiastic thought of lunch. Feel free to replace the haddock with clams or perhaps monkfish.. It’s just what I had in the fridge. And if you don’t have any lapsang, just a little vegetable stock will work just as well.
20 wild garlic leaves
50-75ml olive oil
1tsp fennel seeds
A small handful of pistachios
2tbsp lemon juice
One and a half small red onions, finely sliced
One celery stick, finely diced
A spoonful of butter
A handful of pearl barley
A mug of lightly brewed and strained lapsang suchong tea
200g haddock, in chunks
Salt to taste
A pinch of chilli flakes
Some lemon zest
A few fennel fronds if you have them
Pulse the leaves, oil, fennel seeds, pistachios, oil and lemon juice together until you have a coarse paste. Taste and season if needed.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add 3/4 of the onion, thyme and the celery. Cook until softened, season and add the pearl barley. Cook for a minute or two before adding the lapsang then simmer for about 10-15 minutes until cooked, but with bite.
Add the fish and cook gently for about three to four minutes.
Remove the fish from the pan and stir through a little of the pesto and the remaining red onion. Serve the barley with the fish, a drizzle more of the pesto, the chilli flakes, lemon zest and fennel.